88. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

203963. Following is text of letter from President to Kosygin handed Soviet Charge tonight. Deliver text to Gromyko soonest possible Sunday, informing him we have used both channels because of importance of message.

Begin Text.

“Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am replying immediately to your letter of today about the critical situation in the Near East. Since receiving your message, I have sent a further communication to Prime Minister Eshkol.

I can assure you that I have been making a maximum effort to counsel moderation on Israel and its neighboring Arab States. I agree that you and we both must do everything we can to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. We welcome your assurances as to your efforts in this direction.

The Israeli Government and people are in a state of high tension. They have heard the announcement as to the closing of the Strait of Tiran, they have seen the withdrawal of UN forces along their border and that of the United Arab Republic and they hear daily calls for a ‘holy war’ on the part of the Arabs to destroy Israel. It is important for both of us to do everything we can to reduce the further inflammation of the situation.

It seems to us of vital importance that a prompt solution be found to the issue of the Strait of Tiran. You and we, as important maritime powers, have a large interest in international passage through narrow waters connecting international seas. We urge you to counsel the United Arab Republic to refrain from interfering with the passage of vessels through the Strait. We hope that the Secretary General or the Security Council can find an early answer but I do not wish to underestimate the gravity of this particular problem. If this issue can be resolved, I should think that the prospects for reducing tension and restoring stability in the area would be greatly improved.

[Page 168]

I do hope that your and our parallel efforts to avoid hostilities in this situation will succeed.

Yours faithfully,

Lyndon B. JohnsonEnd Text.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, USSR, Kosygin Correspondence, Vol. I. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Literally Eyes Only for Ambassador. Drafted and approved by Rusk. Walt Rostow sent the draft message to the President at the LBJ Ranch in CAP 67457, May 27, noting that it had been cleared by Rusk and McNamara. An attached typewritten note, dated May 27, 9:30 p.m., contains the President’s comment: “That’s okay with me.” It indicates that Jim Jones relayed this to Walt Rostow. (Ibid., Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. II)